Before you reach for that fancy box of chocolates for your special someone, consider instead purchasing them a chocolate treat that actually provides the health benefits chocolate has come to be known for. Dark chocolate, when consumed in moderation and within one’s recommended daily calorie requirements, actually has many health promoting effects including:
- The abundance of nutrients and antioxidants in chocolate can help explain why moderate consumption has been linked to heart health, reduced inflammation, increase cognitive function and decreased risk of hypertension.
- Chocolate is a rich source of magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.
- Chocolate contains polyphenols and flavonoids, which are rich sources of antioxidants—and cocoa flavonoids are more powerful antioxidants than those found in black tea, green tea, red wine or apples!
Tips for Choosing Chocolate
To reap the health benefits of chocolate make sure to read labels and remember these 3 tips next time you’re at the store:
- Look for dark chocolate with 70% or greater cocoa, which studies have shown to have higher health- promoting properties.
- For the most benefit, choose chocolate that has cocoa mass or cocoa liquor listed as the first ingredient. The first listed ingredient on foods represents the most abundant item. Cocoa mass and cocoa liquor both contain the beneficial antioxidants found in chocolate.
- Try to limit chocolate products containing artificial flavors or ingredients. These type of ingredients often indicate less cocoa is included and more processing was required. The more chocolate is processed, the less beneficial health properties remain.
Tips for Cooking with Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate, particularly artisinal chocolates, are popular with chocolate lovers for their unique flavor profile and decadent taste, but selecting dark chocolate for cooking requires special consideration.
Helpful baking tips—from cookies to pudding:
- Avoid using fancy artisanal chocolate. The qualities you love when consumed at room temperature will not survive the oven.
- Select chocolate with greater than 35% cocoa/cacao.
- Rule of thumb: more sugar means less cocoa solids. You want more cocoa solids for quality dark chocolate.
- Select chocolate with less than 50% sugar to avoid “too-sweet” taste.
- Be mindful of sugar to cocoa solids ratio for puddings. Ratio determines if pudding is “drippy/runny” or “clumpy.” The more sugar, the more “runny.”
- Chocolates containing milk fat are ideal for truffles and glazes due to lower and wider melting point.
Explore more about the history of chocolate and how it is processed on Cornell University’s Chocolate Food of the Gods website .